If The Cubs Trade Willson, I Riot.
There is a certain writer for this blog that thinks now is the best time to trade Willson Contreras. He is wrong (and a Bing Bong. -Matt). Willson is one of the best catchers in all of baseball and he will be with the Cubs for the 2020 season (unless the Cubs get a MASSIVE return).
Since his call-up in 2016, Willson ranks 8th in WAR at 8.3 wins above replacement among all catchers. If we look at just his offensive numbers, Willson (117 wRC+) is the third best hitting catcher behind Gary Sanchez (123 wRC+, Yankees) and Yasmani Grandal (118 wRC+, Brewers). Finding above average hitting catchers is a rarity in baseball. Using the same time frame, only 14 catchers rate as above average by wRC+. As an example, there are 38 first basemen, 21 shortstops, and 23 centerfielders who rate above average between 2016 and 2020.
Willson has one of the strongest arms in baseball. His pop time (time from the catcher receiving the pitch to when his throw reaches second base) was third best this season. We have also seen how his arm can be a weapon when him and Rizzo get together to set up a pick-off attempt at first base.
This is an area where Willson has struggled but he did work on it this past season. Baseball Savant has a stat called Runs Extra Strikes (I will be abbreviating to RES) that converts extra strikes a catcher gets called to runs. Here is Willson's running count from 2016-2019: 0, -5, -10, +1. Theo Epstein said that this was something Willson would continue to work on so I believe we can continue to see some improvements from Willson.
Willson is a great offensive player, a great defensive player, and a catcher who can improve (and is working to) his pitch framing abilities. He will be 28 in the 2020 season and still has 3 years of arbitration left. Trading Willson does not improve the team in my opinion. Caratini is a good catcher but he would be a step down in both offense and defense (we would improve framing pitches), and you would also lose some flexibility with the roster like if Rizzo has to sit for injury.
If all of this does not convince you to join my riot if the Cubs trade Willson then I will leave you with one final quote:
"The best version of Willson Contreras is an MVP candidate, difference making catcher, who also makes your pitching staff better." - Theo Epstein at the 2019 end of season press conference.
**All of these statistics can be found at Fangraphs or Baseball Savant**
Cover photo courtesy of MLB.com